Why is prayer important?
Every relationship you have is based on communication. Most times, this communication is conversation, speaking or writing with words. There are other forms as well, of course, and there are some things that simply cannot be expressed.
Prayer is communication with God. How would we get to know Him but by communication with Him, spending time with Him?
Prayer unifies our hearts with God. Prayer conforms our minds and wills with His. Prayer is our avenue of placing our fears and concerns and desires and hopes and dreams before the King of the Universe. We are invited by Him to do this, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Once upon a time, we were separated from God. No one could approach Him, except a rare few on rare occasions. Moses is particularly noteworthy as he spoke with God face to face, as to a friend. Other than that, there was a clear separation in which God resided in the tabernacle or temple in Jerusalem, and only the high priest could enter the innermost parts, the residence of God in the Holy of Holies, and then only once per year.
But God knew that this would not do, and from the moment our ancient parents Adam and Eve first sinned a plan was put into motion. This plan culminated in the death and resurrection of the one perfect man and God, Jesus Christ. By His death we were healed and given the opportunity to meet God the Father in prayer like never before. Now God the Holy Spirit dwells in us: our bodies are the new temple.
We are now not only His servants, but also His sons and daughters, princes and princesses of the kingdom of heaven. We have been given a spectacular privilege to be invited into the throne room at all times to commune, to communicate, with God Himself.
What does prayer accomplish?
A great many things!
We can talk to God about anything: we are His children and He is a Good Father. When we fear, He will calm us. When we need, He will provide for us. When we want to learn, He will teach us. He says, “Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened to you.”
When we present out requests before God, He hears us! He knows the things we have need of even before we ask Him, but He loves to hear our voices talking to Him, calling to Him, loving Him.
He will, as a Good Father, answer our prayers according to what is best for us. Suppose you just finished baking cookies, delicious, soft, chocolate chip cookies. They are sitting right there on the stove, waiting to cool, waiting to be devoured. But right now, those cookies are piping hot.
Your two-year-old daughter says to you, “Cookie?”
“Not yet,” you say, knowing that the cookie is still dangerously hot. Soon it will be time to eat cookies, but now is not the time.
She looks sad, “Cookie?”
“Not yet.” You know you are going to give her a cookie. That’s why you baked them! But if they don’t cool first… Ouch!
She grabs for a cookie.
She starts to cry. She doesn’t understand that you want to give her a cookie, but that she must wait. You are a good parent. You will protect your daughter even from piping hot cookies!
So it is with God and us. We pray for many things, and often we don’t get what we want, at least not as we envisioned it. Why? Because our Father has better plans. He knows what is good for us and what is bad. He knows that some normally good things will hurt us right now. We don’t understand. We get frustrated. But He loves us SO MUCH that He will wait for just the right moment, the perfect moment, to give us the best gifts He can give.
And what gifts He gives!
First He gives salvation. He gives us the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. He heals our hearts and leads us to His pleasure.
He also heals bodies. He takes away blindness. He takes away ills. He casts out demons. (Yes, they do exist, and are even here in America, though sneakily hidden!) He teaches us to speak in foreign tongues. He gives us words of wisdom and knowledge, things that we could not know without His insight.
He gives us good parking spaces and makes the bus come at just the right time. He provides for us the food and money we need. He fills our hearts with joy. He gives us love, and builds for us friendships and romance. Anything you can ask or imagine, He can do.
And the best prayers ever are the ones that see someone saved, someone brought into this same joyous relationship with God, welcomed to our heavenly family forever.
How do we pray?
The primary way we pray is with words. We set aside a time of relative quiet to focus our thoughts on God and speak to Him. He can hear our thoughts.
Sometimes it helps to speak aloud. It is more difficult to get distracted when speaking, whereas thinking prayers often lead to a meandering mind and daydreams.
We can pray while sitting quietly in a silent room or listening to music. We can pray while walking down the street or while driving to work. Some people need to be moving to focus on prayer. Others need to be still.
We can pray by ourselves, and we can also pray together. When we pray together, we can often pray longer, as the prayers of our brothers and sisters bring to mind new prayers that we otherwise might have forgotten. We also must be courteous in group prayer not to dominate the time, not to say too much at once. Some people need a good solid period of quiet before they will speak: be certain to allow them that. Some will choose not to pray aloud at all, and that is ok, but it is also a blessing to others to hear a quiet one’s prayers.
There are other ways to pray as well. Worship is closely related to prayer. We can pray by singing with or without words. We can pray by making music. We can pray through drawing. We can pray through writing. Any time we are communing with our Father, we are praying.